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Differential effects of disease modifying drugs on peripheral blood B cell subsets: A cross sectional study in multiple sclerosis patients treated with interferon-β, glatiramer acetate, dimethyl fumarate, fingolimod or natalizumab.

PLoS One. 2020;15(7):e0235449. Published 2020 Jul 27. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0235449

Authors/Editors: Kemmerer CL, Pernpeintner V, Ruschil C, Abdelhak A, Scholl M, Ziemann U, Krumbholz M, Hemmer B, Kowarik MC.
Publication Date: 2020



Background: Several disease modifying drugs (DMDs) have been approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), however, little is known about their differential impact on peripheral blood (PB) B cell subsets.

Methods: We performed a cross sectional study on PB B cells in MS patients treated with interferon-β (n = 25), glatiramer acetate (n = 19), dimethyl fumarate (n = 15), fingolimod (n = 16) or natalizumab (n = 22), untreated MS patients (n = 20), and in patients with non-inflammatory neurological diseases (n = 12). Besides analyzing routine laboratory data, flow cytometry was performed to analyze naïve B cells (CD19+CD20+CD27-IgD+), non-class switched (CD19+CD20+CD27+IgD+) and class-switched memory B cells (CD19+CD20+CD27+IgD-), double negative B cells (CD19+CD20lowCD27-IgD-) and plasmablasts (CD19+CD20lowCD27+CD38++).

Results: Treatment associated changes were found for the overall B cell pool as well as for all B cell subsets. Natalizumab increased absolute numbers and percentage of all B cells mainly by expanding the memory B cell pool. Fingolimod decreased absolute numbers of all B cell subsets and the percentage of total B cells. Fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate and interferon-β treatments were associated with an increase in the fraction of naïve B cells while class switched and non-class switched memory B cells showed decreased percentages.

Conclusion: Our results highlight differential effects of DMDs on the PB B cell compartment. Across the examined treatments, a decreased percentage of memory B cells was found in dimethyl fumarate, interferon-β and fingolimod treated patients which might contribute to the drugs' mode of action in MS. Further studies are necessary to decipher the exact role of B cell subsets during MS pathogenesis.

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